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“Sleep” is the word with the most entries in my gratitude journal.

Ever since I was a little girl, getting to sleep was not an easy thing for me.  Now, as a lady-of-a-certain-age, waking up early in the morning has added to my sleep woes.

Taking “one of those little pills right before bed” is not for me. Lots of people handle their sleep problems with “a little pill.”

For many years, I was proud of the fact that I routinely got three to four hours of sleep.  I had lots of other things to do besides sleep. “What a waste of time!” I thought.   But after I retired, I really did not have “lots of other things to do.” When I read an article in the AARP magazine titled “Why Sleep is Precious for Staying Sharp,”  it scared the be jeepers out of me.  I realized I had harmed my health for many years.

I want to share with you some of my strategies for getting a “good night’s sleep.”

I took a class on the subject and read tons.

I learned about the causes of both acute insomnia and chronic insomnia, which I had had for years.  The main reasons I could not get to sleep when I was a girl and a younger woman were because of significant stress and anxiety.  I often sought relief by engaging my brain in various creative pursuits while I had my head on the pillow. Drinking alcohol before bed was another one of my efforts to handle stress and anxiety. It rarely worked. To add to my sleep deprivation, sometimes I would nod off, but would awake a short time later. The instructor stated adults need a good eight hours or more of sleep each night and that it is possible to “catch-up” on sleep time, but it would take three or four days of more sleep hours to do so.

Another source of information on sleep I consulted was various books, web sites, and articles, such as stories about sleep and the aging brain in Scientific American and Reuters. I looked at “Perfect Health,” by Deepak Chopra, M.D., and the section on what happens to the aging brain in “Being Mortal,” by Atul Gawande, M.D. My body type, or dosha, as defined by Ayurveda medicine in Chopra’s book, has a hard time turning off the mind at night.

I looked into possible health reasons

I had my blood checked to see if my thyroid disease had changed and if the medicine for it was sufficient.  Although I have arthritis like most women my age, I have little pain.  An aspirin, pain cream, and yoga work for me at night.  Depression is another ailment I considered, but ruled out.

I looked at my routine

I no longer watch the nightly news or check my email before going to bed.  Alas – I gave up my hot chocolate just before bedtime and now have it early in the evening because I learned dark chocolate can contribute to insomnia. When I go into my bedroom, I turn on a small table lamp only and the electric blanket.  A darkened room with a warm bed to climb into really seems to help. Also, I have noticed that I sleep better when I have just changed my sheets, so I change them more often.  Experts advise working out during the day, but not before bedtime.  They also suggest being outside in the sun and “in the green” each day.  (I have never had energy after dinner to work out and walk my dog each day.)

I have found these things helpful to get me back to sleep at 1:30 a.m.

I get out of bed instead of tossing and turning.  Sometimes I knit if the piece I am working on is not too complicated.  Most of the time I go to the bathroom.  If I notice my fingers or a knee hurting from arthritis, I rub pain cream on the hurting area and take an aspirin.   I grab the jojoba oil, mandarin essential oil, and lavender linen spray from the bathroom closet.  I sit on my bed and pour a little oil in my hand and then sprinkle it with the mandarin oil before rubbing the mixture on the bottom of my feet, on my temples and the back of my neck. I put cozy socks on. Next, I spritz my pillow with the lavender spray.  By then, I am a little chilly and I hop into my warm bed.  If anything is bothering me, I tell myself I will write about it in my journal the next morning.  Finally, I remind myself that if I sleep a little longer than normal not to get mad at myself.  After all, I no longer have an 8 a.m. business meeting to get to – thank, God!

Copywrite – Elizabeth J. Wheeler, October 12,2016